Despite federal regulations setting three seconds as the minimum time for a yellow traffic signal, Chicago shaved a tenth of a second to give red-light cameras a chance to catch more violations. The departure from safety guidelines netted the city millions:
How long is a yellow light? Most people would—reasonably—have no idea the exact length of time before a traffic light goes from yellow to red. The answer is: A minimum of three seconds, according to federal safety regulations. What happens when a mere tenth of second is shaved off that time and a yellow light lasts 2.9 seconds? If you thought, not much, you’d be wrong.
The city of Chicago and its mayor, Rahm Emanuel, are taking heat—thanks to a Chicago Tribune investigation—for ever-so-quietly sanding that measly tenth of a second off of the length of yellow lights in the city this past spring. The impact was substantial: 77,000 additional red light camera tickets were issued, at $100 a pop, which added up to nearly $8 million forked over by unsuspecting drivers.